Dutch Feed Producer, Two U.S. Companies Indicted in Drug Smuggling Ring
MILWAUKEE (AP) _ A Dutch animal feed producer and two U.S. companies were charged with running a smuggling ring that supplied American veal producers with banned cattle drugs that can be dangerous to humans, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
``Calves that were being fed these growth enhancing drugs were being slaughtered and put on grocery shelves throughout America,″ U.S. Attorney Thomas Schneider said.
The drugs included Clenbuterol, which has been linked to outbreaks of acute food poisoning in Europe, the animal antibiotic avoparcine and carcinogenic compounds called nitrofurans, prosecutors said.
Gerard Hoogendijk, owner of Pricor BV, a Dutch animal premix company based in Oudewater, Netherlands, was the principal source of the black market drugs used to speed growth of veal calves, Schneider said.
Hoogendijk, who has not yet been extradited from the Netherlands, was charged with nine federal counts, including smuggling and distributing misbranded and adulterated animal drugs, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Also indicted in Milwaukee were Travis Calf Milk Inc., a Neillsville feed company and its owner, Gerald R. Travis of Withee; and VIV Inc., a Springville, Pa., veal producer, and its owners, Jan and Hennie Van Den Hengel.
Calls to VIV-Van Den Hengel in Susquehanna County, Pa., seeking comment were not immediately returned. No phone listings were found for Travis Calf or Travis.
A grand jury indictment against Hoogendijk was issued Jan. 3, then sealed while prosecutors sought his extradition. The Dutch government still has not confirmed its willingness to extradite the businessman, Schneider said.
Other veal producers are being investigated and additional charges are expected, he said.
The charges against Hoogendijk carry a maximum penalty of 41 years in prison and fines of $2.25 million. VIV faces fines totaling $3.5 million, while Travis Calf faces $3 million in fines.
The charges grew from an investigation of Vitek Supply Corp., and its president, Jannes Doppenberg. They were both convicted in June on 12 counts of conspiracy, smuggling and distribution of unapproved animal drugs and are to be sentenced next Tuesday.
Hoogendijk’s Pricor owns a majority stake in Vitek and supplied Vitek with the black market animal drugs, Schneider said. Vitek was accused of selling more than 1.7 million pounds of products containing unapproved drugs between 1988 and April 1994.
Vitek, based in Oak Grove, could face a fine of $3.06 million, and Doppenberg, of Oconomowoc, could face a maximum penalty of $1.56 million in fines and 48 years in prison.
The charges against Travis Calf and VIV, which also operates a Hying America, accused the companies of conspiring to smuggle and distribute the drugs. Each faces a conspiracy charge and five counts of violating food and drug laws prohibiting the distribution of the drugs.
VIV received more than 200,000 pounds of Vitek veal feed supplements, called premixes, containing the drugs and fed them to veal calves raised in its own facilities, the indictment said.
Travis Calf was accused of receiving more than 150,000 pounds of the tainted premixes and using the drugs in its veal feed.
``This drug scandal has shown that nearly all the major companies and major players have been involved,″ said Bradley Miller, national director of the San Francisco-based Humane Farming Association.
``It’s underscores the fact that the veal industry has relied and continues to rely on dangerous drugs in its production methods,″ he said.